Security clearance reform is a hot agenda item for Congress. In the wake of the national security leaks of Edward Snowden and the Navy Yard shooting by cleared defense contractor Aaron Alexis, leaders across government congress and the private sector are all asking what can be done to ensure a safer and more efficient security clearance process. Continuous monitoring is one program on the agenda, and the Automated Continuing Evaluation System is the program which could do it.
ACES isn’t a new program. A 2007 Department of Homeland Security Privacy Impact Assessment outlined the program long before continuous monitoring was debated on the Hill. Even then the government realized the idea of monitoring employees – even those who have already undergone the privacy invasion of a Single Scope Background investigation or polygraph – is a dicey idea. The DHS report outlines the myriad privacy issues. Ironically, the NSA PRISM scandal which prompted new congressional inquiry into the security clearance process also makes the idea of continuous monitoring, and extensive government data mining, a harder pill to swallow.
WHAT DOES ACES MEAN FOR YOU?
For cleared professionals, continuous monitoring could have significant impacts. Under continuous monitoring the government will begin automatically collecting information ranging from your boat registration to your divorce proceedings – almost any public information is fair game for collection (although you would sign a disclaimer allowing the government to access that information). Just as there are currently processes for protesting a security clearance denial or statement of reasons, there would also be opportunities to mitigate adverse information that appeared through the ACES program.
WHAT DOES IT MEAN FOR RECRUITERS?
Cybersecurity remains one of the most hard-to-fill cleared positions. Privacy has never been a selling point for government employees or government contractors, but it remains to be seen how the average IT professional will view the idea of continuous monitoring – particularly in an era when the commercial sector is outpacing government salaries.
While momentum is shifting toward ACES and continuous monitoring, no decisions have been made yet. The cost of ACES is significant, and in an era where periodic reinvestigations are already being suspended due to lack of dollars, it remains to be seen if the money will align with the priority. The Office of the Director of National Intelligence has said that continuous monitoring could begin being implemented as early as September, and be fully implemented by September 2016.